Pete Best laughs as he remembers the band’s escapades in Hamburg and Liverpool in their early days, though his stint with the Beatles lasted only two years. He was dismissed from the Beatles’ lineup in 1962 and replaced by Ringo Starr for reasons that have been often debated, but remain unconfirmed. Some say it was apparent drug abuse, while others muse that fellow band members felt threatened by his popularity with female fans. Best has stopped worrying though; since then, his life has come a full circle — having spent more than 20 years out of showbiz and then making a grand comeback with the Pete Best Band. In Delhi to promote his hometown Liverpool, Best speaks to us about his music, The Beatles, and not worrying about what could have been.
What was it like, being a Beatle?
People always ask me what it was like to be dismissed from the band. They forget I spent an incredible three years knowing them (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe), and a great two years together as a band. Those were the best years for the Beatles, because that’s when our signature sound was created.
Who were you closest to in the band?
We were all friends, but John (Lennon) was my favourite.
What comes to mind when you think back to those incredible years you spent with them?
Our escapades in Hamburg — where we travelled to for a series of concerts in the early ’60s — those memories still make me smile. We had an amazing time. Also, I remember our first recording very fondly. We were so young, in our teens, and it was a big thing for us. But we didn’t realise the weight of our achievement, to have gotten a recording. It was a big break.
Has it been difficult to break out of the Beatles mould?
It’s natural for people to tag me as a Beatle. Honestly, it’s nice to be associated with the band. It took some time to move on, but I was eventually recognised as Pete Best in my hometown Liverpool.
Do you still worry about what could have been?
Not at all. I stopped worrying about it a lot time ago. I would have been a very different person had things not turned out this way.
I moved on. I got health and happiness, and I also got recognised and accepted as myself.
You stepped out of show business for over 20 years. What made you come back to it?
Family responsibilities made me step out of the scene in 1968. Some people say it was a sensible decision. For the next 20 years I worked in the civil services. These were sacrifices that had to be made for a happy, healthy family life. I don’t regret the decision at all, because here I am, with my wife of 40 years, two daughters and grandchildren. And 10 years ago, I came back to show business. So life has come a full circle. But why did I make a comeback? I didn’t plan it, though my mother had predicted that one day I will get back into it.
It happened by chance actually: in the late ’80s, when my mother was still alive, there were many requests in Liverpool for me to play again.
I couldn’t make any more excuses. The performance went down well with the audience, and there was no looking back.
What are your memories of India?
I moved out of India in 1945 when I was four-years-old. But my mother has told me some great stories about our happy times here. My mother, in fact, growing up here, was a fabulous singer and performed in a band. She could have had a big career as a musician, but my grandfather put his foot down. As for me, this is my first time performing in India, and I’m happy to be here.
What is the Peter Best Band like?
We are a powerhouse of sound. We have double drums, a lot of vocals and there are a range of ways in which we involve the audience in our performances. As musicians, most of us have to sing at some point but I try not to sing — my philosophy is, I’ll sing if I have to. But I have three vocalists so the need doesn’t arise very often. There are five of us in the band — it’s the strongest lineup we have ever had.